Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #133 by Drew Barth
It’s been a while since I last talked about food in comics, so let’s change that. Ramen overlaps with comics in a weird way as something ubiquitous, but still perceived as cheap and for a very specific crowd. That’s why it’s so nice to see Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan cater to that specific crowd with their graphic cookbook, Let’s Make Ramen!
When I say this is a graphic cookbook, Aman and Becan don’t just illustrate a few recipes and leave it at that. The creators here go through the history of ramen—from the history of its inception to why those specific springy noodles are used—along with illustrations of all the essentials needed to create that perfect bowl of ramen. They present to us methods of ramen mastery as well as the etiquette if slurping down a bowl in a ramen-ya. While just recipes are nice, Let’s Make Ramen! goes beyond that by providing the foundation of history, culture, and method. From there, we can dive deeper into the various broths, toppings, and meats needed to create the kind of ramen that single packs can’t come close to competing with. Of course, it also doesn’t stop you from taking that knowledge of meats and toppings and applying it to that packet ramen if you’re feeling nostalgic.
Ramen is still a relatively young tradition, so it is allowed a bit more wiggle-room in terms of what it can encompass. Amano and Becan help to highlight that by not just showing the broths and toppings, but different combinations that go beyond what is normally served in a ramen-ya. And those basics that they build up throughout the book are absolutely open to any kind of interpretation. That’s what makes a book like this so good for cooking: the combination of basic elements with easy visual cues create a comic in which anyone can cook from it and create some strong ramen.
Let’s Make Ramen! and its follow-up Let’s Make Dumplings! make me believe that graphic cookbooks are the future of cookbooks. There’s only so much a standard cookbook with a few photos can do, and most cooking videos online are hands in a void mixing ingredients. Here, we’re given our food in steps, but also the history and culture that comes along with it. And it’s presented in such a way that anyone is able to pick the book up and go.
Get excited. Get slurping.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.